We recently shared the exciting news that Integra Partners has qualified for the 2X Challenge in partnership with DEG. This recognition solidifies our commitment to support women leadership and employment at all levels as we invest in the next generation of tech entrepreneurs to drive access and affordability to responsible financial services and healthcare in Southeast Asia.
To build on this, today we commence a series of interviews to shine the spotlight on women leaders who are making a difference in communities around Southeast Asia. Join us every Wednesday as we #WinWithWomen. In this series, we speak to women leaders in the fintech, insurtech and healthtech industries that are championing equality and diversity at their workplaces.
First up, we spoke to Khai Lin Sng who is the Co-Founder and Chief Investment Officer at Fundnel, Southeast Asia’s largest private investment technology platform, powering private capital markets for the next generation of entrepreneurs and investors. She shares her thoughts on entrepreneurship and the collective power of women. Khai Lin is also the Vice President of Singapore FinTech Association, Director at *SCAPE and ASEAN Youth Fellow at the National Youth Council Singapore. She is passionate about making a difference for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises and marine conservation.
Hi Khai Lin, with the uptick in the number of unicorns in the region in recent years, there has been a lot of interest in joining startups and starting companies. Could you share with us your journey on how you became an entrepreneur?
My parents have been running their own business for as long as I can remember. As a child, I witnessed first-hand the fascinating highs and inevitable lows of entrepreneurship, long before I knew what that word meant. Despite the long hours and gruelling workload, I was inspired by the pride my parents took in their livelihood.
When I co-founded Fundnel, my parents were the ones who provided me with a sense of assurance amidst the uncertainty. It’s been six years and Fundnel is in a completely different place now, but I still look up to my parents as a source of inspiration. I guess you can say that entrepreneurship is in my blood!
What do you love most about your work and what have you learnt as an entrepreneur?
I love that every day on the job is never the same – with every day, there’s a lesson to be learnt. When we were bootstrapping, I learnt the importance of grit — a culmination of multiple rejections and failures. Today, we have built somewhat of a name for ourselves, but along the way, I’ve learnt never to be complacent despite how far we’ve come. At each stage of the company’s growth, we encounter and learn different things. And I am immensely grateful for everything that I’ve experienced along the way.
How did your career start and what has been your journey to starting Fundnel?
I started out my career at an investment bank. It was then that my co-founders and I noticed glaring inefficiencies in the private capital markets. Many promising startups faced incredibly high barriers to entry when it came to raising capital, mainly due to the high underwriting fees charged by traditional investment banks. We saw an opportunity to fill that gap, so we took a leap of faith, and the rest is history!
You started your career in investment banking, why did you choose to make a switch and pursue a career in technology?
I have always been fascinated by technology; the beauty of how it can democratise services and provide access to underserved or unserved communities. When my co-founder brought up the concept of an investment technology platform, I jumped at the idea immediately. It was a rare opportunity to change the age-old paradigm of private investments — one that was inefficient and accessible only to a few.
At Fundnel, we’re working to change this. Our goal is to build next-generation capital markets infrastructure that will grant investors access to opportunities traditionally unavailable to them, and avenues for liquidity when managing their portfolios. At the same time, our platform will help startups in their quest to secure strategic capital to fund their next move.
Is gender balance something that Fundnel thinks about? How does Fundnel support maintaining a gender balance?
I’m happy to share that our team has a nearly 50/50 gender ratio. This is something we try to drive through a fair recruitment process that offers candidates equal opportunities regardless of their gender. This extends to our tech-related roles as well. Women have a strong presence in our tech teams, and this means that we are able to help to push for more female representation within the industry.
What do you think technology companies can do more to encourage maintaining a gender balance and removing bias in the hiring process?
One of the most consistent things I hear from fellow founders is the dilemma of hiring for representation versus hiring based on merit. To me, the latter should take precedence.
That said, I always encourage our hiring managers to consider points of bias in their decision making. We focus heavily on merit, but at the same time, have to keep in mind the unconscious bias we might harbour. To alleviate this, my colleagues implemented multiple rounds of interviews for each job candidate. After which, we will then convene to share our perspectives and make final hiring decisions together.
As founders, we must also recognise the benefit of diversity. Having a diverse team with individuals of various backgrounds opens up new perspectives, generates fresh ideas, and prevents groupthink.
Any final words?
“A woman alone has power; collectively we have impact.” I came across this quote a few years ago, and it has stuck with me ever since. It is not enough for individual women to hold senior positions in our respective workplaces. Real change only happens when we band together to advocate for better representation and access to opportunities, regardless of whether they are our peers or from the next generation of working women.